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Action promised for looked-after pupils

Minister to give priority to the requirements of The TES campaign

the government pledged at a symposium this week marking the culmination of The TES Time To Care campaign to address problems faced by children in care.

Parmjit Dhanda, minister responsible for looked-after children, spoke in London to delegates from around the country. The event followed the year-long campaign which raised awareness of the ways in which children in care are often failed by the system.

Only six per cent of looked-after children attain five or more C-grades at GCSE, compared to 59 per cent nationally. Mr Dhanda said: "We all know that the gap between children in care and other children's outcomes needs to be addressed and needs to be addressed urgently."

Last month the Government released a green paper which called for looked-after children to be given greater stability in the lead-up to their GCSEs. The Government has credited The TES with inspiring this move. Alan Johnson, education secretary, said: "Time To Care has had a huge influence over what we have put in the green paper."

But many of the delegates claimed the green paper does not go far enough.

Sonia Jackson, professor at the Institute of Education in London, said: "We should not get fixated with GCSEs. It's more important children get on with their carers. It is the most important thing to ensure they do well."

Many at the symposium called on schools to play a greater role in ensuring looked-after children achieve their potential. Professor Jackson said:

"Much of this discussion sees schools as passive and reluctant recipients of children in care, when they are key players. There is nothing in most training courses about the care system."

The one-day symposium was co-hosted by banking firm HSBC. Stephen Green, its chairman, announced that the bank was pledging pound;10million over five years, to support street children around the world. An additional Pounds 1million would provide private mentoring and tutoring for looked-after children in Britain.

Judith Judd, TES editor, said: "We are delighted with the success of the Time to Care campaign and the effect it has had on government policy. We look forward to seeing further progress towards a better deal for these vulnerable children."

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